Amen! Maybe we should start calling it "warm" calling. I recently added to my presentations the concept of "the marketing butterfly effect". We have all read something along the lines of "if a butterfly flaps its wings in Africa, could that cause a tornado in Georgia?" Maybe, maybe not. However, we do know that there is paid, earned and owned marketing and that each of these has a cost, creates and effect AND that little moves in any one method or tool can yield big results.
For example, can "social media" help you build both a personality AND relationships with potential buyers. Absolutely! Should we all stop using the phone and spend our days twittering away? Absolutely not!
Multi-touch, multi-media and multi-cycle programs multiply results. Multi-touch programs, particularly those aimed at strategic accounts, are going to include some telephone calls. So, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. For years the word "lead" had bad name. Today, the words "cold calling" have a bad name. There are predictions that in 2012 "marketing automation" will have a bad name. And that will not be because marketing automation is bad. It will be because the market does not know how to use marketing automation.
Let's all do each other a favor and work on marketing and sales alignment, (within any one company) the definition of a lead, metrics for measurement along the demand waterfall and realistic rewards for close rates that allow sales to be transparent and pass leads back and forth through a function that supports both sales and marketing - and stop bad mouthing "cold calling". Thanks Trish!
Cold calling is certainly a "charged" topic. From the sales reps perspective, I think many times this is because Exec Management - CEO, CFO, CMO - sees it as a suitable form of lead generation and uses it to justify expectations of the sales force.
I think the key is what is the expectation?
The phone is a great way to follow up on an inbound inquiry that is "interested now". It also can be used to create awareness, although their are other tools that are much better. But the idea that phone calls to a database of even "warm" inquiries will produce predictable revenue is severely flawed. When you calculate the time it takes to research the company and prepare to speak dependinng on the contacts role, and then add to that the number of dials it takes to actually reach that person, it just doesn't pay. Unless you are respondinng to a direct inquiry with interest, or simply blasting an awareness message, its not going to move the needle.
Trish - thanks so much for this post. People constantly confuse using the telephone to connect to potential buyers with cold calling.
It seems like well written, hand written follow up notes still work too.... how old school -
What we notice more than anything is that most people do not follow up enough - they do not "touch" the prospect enough nor put any sort of a nurture campaign in place but rather wait for their web landing pages to send them a prospect - sort of like what some sales people used to do when the fax machine first came out!
Thanks for speaking up -
Nice job on your article. I recently posted a blog, http://bit.ly/singingthecoldcallblues, that supports your view about the importance of calling, but builds upon the idea that it’s not the sales reps that should be doing the warm calling, but professionally trained in-house or outsourced callers. The rate of increase in sales by using dedicated callers can be measured in the multiples of new sales. Thanks for your well-written blog.
You are a life-saver. I began an inside sales role in August with not experience and using your blog I have trained myself and have become successful using the methods you advocate! I hope other sales reps think calling is dead because it makes it easier for me to get through to my prospects! You have been an asset for me as we had virtually no ramp up time and I was the first full-time ISR at my company. Our CEO has been so happy with inside sales they are considering adding more reps and building out a team. To summarize: you are the best Trish!
Bruce, I agree. The expectation of the call should not be a "sale", so don't have salespeople make it. Its much more efficient and cost-effective for specialists who are dedicated to the effort.
Cold calling typically converts at 1-3% of the time (suspect to prospect). Billions of dollars are spent in the US annually on an activity that wastes 97% of your time, effort and money and pisses off your best prospects as well :-) You can turn a cold call into a warm call if you do what Trish is doing! Spend a few minutes optimizing your website for your target demographic, publish meaningful content, create a community of people who are interested and become the electronic water cooler for your industry. This is how to increase your lead yiedl today- Its called SMARKETING via inbound marketinig.
The best blog post title of the year so far!
My friends at Jigsaw will tell you that still today, the largest audiences for their Expert Series webinars have "Cold Calling" in the title.
Make the call people, just be prepared when you do.
As Frank J. Rumbauskas Jr. says on page 64 of "Never Cold Call Again", and I quote, "The effective way to use the telephone in prospecting is not to make the calls yourself" .
I always find your posts thoughtful, and this one is no exception. Perhaps the term "cold call" could be defined as "cold" in that the sales person calling doesn't yet have a relationship with the person their calling. Our experience in sales calling continues to prove that when a sales person has a well-targeted, specific value proposition, the prospect is happy to know about what we are selling. Cold calling is ONE strategy in a multi-part marketing plan, and strategic targeting for the calling is critical to the calling process.
Thanks to all for their comments!
@Dan. Love the "marketing butterfly" analogy. You are correct in that an integrated strategy with all types of outreach is the one that works best.
@Bruce, Pete, David & Dan. I am on your bus that inbound is better and that a dedicated resource focused on the front end of the process is optimal. But...sometimes a company does not have the ability or the budget to execute that strategy. Sometimes the sales guy has to do it all and that is just the ugly truth.
@Hazard & Catherine. Thank you so much for your words of support. You inspire me!
Thanks to all for their participation!
First, thanks for the mention!
Second, it's refreshing to hear from other people out there that cold calling still has a place in effective sales processes.
How we define "cold," exactly, is obviously a point of dispute, but the essence of the concept is still pretty simple: we're targeting someone with a clear, precise message of value to initiate a relationship with them.
That part of sales is never, ever going to change.
I completely agree with the "inbound savants" that "warm," sales-ready leads are always preferable to outbound lead gen, but outbound lead generation will always have a place in the business world--it's up to us as sales agents to leverage the information and technology in front of us.
This is where the disconnect happens, I think. If we really are "cold" calling--simply picking up the phone and crossing our fingers--that's when the de-motivating lack of overall performance and sales success happens.
Effective outbound prospecting takes more preparation than ever--and it should.
Many of my colleagues have begun e-mail prospecting instead of picking up the phone and most people have themselves believing that this will somehow yield new opportunities.
If you like calling great! If you don't like calling try your best to like it. It's part of the job and an email only approach will result in failure. Just some thoughts.
I cold call a lot, mostly because the inbound marketing stuff I've tried is not pulling the qualified leads I want. At least I can control cold calling.
There are a lot of people for whom almost any marketing tactic simply never moves the needle appreciably. We persist because the universe bends to the determined psyche. Somehow, we're generating economic benefit.
I readevery email that comes to my inbox - and even check those in the spam folder. I don't answer my phone unless i recognize the number, and i assume if the call comes to my desk phone (vs cell) its an unwanted call.
How can the phone be a better way to make an introduction than email??
Trish, I am glad you brought up the ‘we don’t have the budget for sales lead generators’ argument therefore salespeople have to make their own calls. I am not going to attribute this idea as one you firmly believe until you have examined this argument through the following perspective.
Let us analogize the sale department to a military operation involving cannons. Picture a row of ten cannons. The cannons, in this analogy, are the marketing department that forms and guide the sales message just as the cannon guides the artillery shells to strike the enemy. The cannoneer, the person who fires the shells, represents the analogous sale person, who like the shell, deprives the enemy from making the sale every time he makes one. In our analogy, we know that we only hold back or defeat the enemy by firing more shells than they can shoot back so we defeat them first. We have surmised that each cannon needs to fire a shell at least once every eight minutes for us to win. Any slower and their cannon shells will overwhelm us.
We have two choices as to how to get the artillery shells to each cannon. We can have a support team of one artillery shell handler for each cannon, or we can have the cannoneer be both the runner to get the shells and load them up and fire the shells when ready.
Now picture that for safeties sake, the shells are kept 100 yards behind the cannon line. If the cannoneer is also the shell handler, he is away from shooting his cannon for the ten minutes it takes to fast-walk 100 yards to get the shell, load it on a shell dolly, bring it back to the cannon, and load it before he can calibrate the next fire and make it, the firing process taking two minute. The total process takes him twelve minutes if he does everything himself. If he has one handler to do that process for him, he can fire one shell every eight minutes, and if he has two handlers, he can fire a shell every four and one-half minutes. He goes to his commander as asks for two handlers, but at a minimum, at least one. The question is, will the commander tell him he will have to do shell handling himself because they have no budget for handlers? Absolutely not. The cannoneer will get his handlers. It becomes a matter of stark necessity to find money from some source. Maybe the whole battalion will have to go without desserts during battle so that 10 cannons can be supplied with 10 handlers. However, since defeat is not part of the battle game plan, telling the cannoneer to get his own shells just would not happen.
In a business, the number of sales a salesperson can close is a direct function of how many leads he gets. If we can double or triple the number of leads (assuming they are of the same quality as the leads the sales person would get if they did it themselves) delivered to the sale person, we will double or triple his sales.
Why would a company make a decision different from the cannon commander as to giving the sales person his own “shell handlers”? If the “boss”, when these facts are laid out for him, arrives at a decision at odds with the cannon commander, you as the sales manager should find another company to work for. The one at odds with the cannon commander who doesn’t know how to create a budget to keep his most productive assets fully engaged, double or tripling their sales won’t be a company that thrives or maybe even survive in today’s competitive, fast changing, turbulent world.
@Bruce...that is one heck of an analogy! Thanks for that as I am not that good at sports or military analogies. Mine tend to run more towards shopping or dating.
While I don't disagree that having a resource focused on the front end of the process is optimal, it simply does not change the fact that for some companies the budget for that resource is not always avaialable.
Also, so we don't digress too far from the point of the original post. We were talking about integrating outbound as part of an overall strategy and the fact that the "cold" in cold calling is in fact dead. It doesn't matter what resource is focused on the task at hand all that matters is that a well integrated strategy sometimes needs to include outbound as part of it.
Hope this clarifies our point and thanks for participating in the conversation!
Trish, thanks for reiterating the idea in your two separate comments that “sometimes companies don’t have the budget for them.” In effect, this argument is stating, we do not have the budget to increase our sales. The universe of these companies that do not “legitimately” have the budget versus those that use this as an excuse is very small. Here are five classes of companies in which one might accept that argument.
Start-up companies that are self-funded and everyone is performing tasks that are sub-optimal for them, including sales. The owner is emptying the wastebaskets even though that is a sub-optimal use of his or her time in the bigger scheme of things.
Companies that have a production constraint in which no amount of new sales is going to matter until they can afford to buy the ‘big machine’ that triples their production. This company would not benefit from shifting resources from less effective uses to professional sales callers until they solve their production problem.
Smaller companies in which the owner is happy with their level of sales and do not want to increase sales further. Earlier in my career when I sold door-to-door to businesses, I would meet auto repair shop owners, architects, in fact any type of company in which the owner’s were happy with the control they exerted at their level of sales. They had no interest increasing the layers of management it would take to go to the next sales level. This is not so much a budgeting issue as a decision based upon balancing one’s comfort zone.
The next group is also not so much of a budget issue as it is that there is no business sense in having a group of trained callers, whether for cold calling or for warm lead calling. Those companies that have a limited number of prospects in their industry do not need professional sales callers, in house or outsourced. Another group in this category are ones that have decided they can make more sales gains (for a limited period) cultivating sales from their existing customer base than they’d get if they worked hard at landing new customers. This class would benefit from professional callers when they did need new customers.
The last group encompasses companies in which other marketing methods are more cost effective than having anyone use the telephone to generate leads. Most online consumer product companies fall into this group.
Budgets are the result of allocating resources. I cannot think of a valid excuse that resources would not be in the budget for well run companies to increase sales. My reaction against using the budget objections is that budgets should not be allowed to interrupt a sale by a good sales person. Good sales people are trained to help whomever they are selling to remember what their real priorities are, which is to increase sales using the most optimal methods available.
The truth is that no one really goes in cold anymore - or at least they shouldn't. To me, cold calling is simply running through a phone book or client list and then picking up a phone.
There are more than enough resources now for any sales person to at least have a degree of intel on a prospect - prequalification if you like - to have a compelling reason to call, or to adjust the pitch to suit a need, or even at the opposite end of the scale, scratch them from a list without even calling because they already know they're not buying.
Buyers know a scripted pitch when they hear it. Over 92% of execs ignore cold call and email meeting requests. The best way to build trust is to show your face. When you get up close and personal on video, you’ll build powerful connections with prospects.
There are many good points here, but I agree that actual cold calling does indeed have one foot in the grave. The only and best way to make calls or any contact is with a warm introduction. Referrals, even casual ones will get a better response than a cold call. The number of suspects will be less, but the number of prospects will increase. On the other hand, if one is just trying to break into a new market or industry, cold calls are necessary to get started.